Belfast Telegraph

Tuesday 16 September 2014

Peter Bills' World Cup blog: All Blacks look unstoppable

AUCKLAND, NEW ZEALAND - OCTOBER 16: The All Blacks perform the haka during semi final two of the 2011 IRB Rugby World Cup between New Zealand and Australia at Eden Park on October 16, 2011 in Auckland, New Zealand. (Photo by Phil Walter-Pool/Getty Images)
AUCKLAND, NEW ZEALAND - OCTOBER 16: Ma'a Nonu of the All Blacks goes over to score their first try during semi final two of the 2011 IRB Rugby World Cup between New Zealand and Australia at Eden Park on October 16, 2011 in Auckland, New Zealand. (Photo by Hannah Johnston/Getty Images)
AUCKLAND, NEW ZEALAND - OCTOBER 16: A general view during semi final two of the 2011 IRB Rugby World Cup between New Zealand and Australia at Eden Park on October 16, 2011 in Auckland, New Zealand. (Photo by Ryan Pierse/Getty Images)

A hectic weekend of rugby, full of drama, passion and commitment.

How Ireland would love to have been here, not sitting watching the action thousands of miles away back home.

Maybe too, Ireland would have got past France to reach the final. If they’d played with anything like the same spirit, verve and quality they showed against Australia, they certainly would have done.

Wales would have eclipsed them too had they kicked their goals and had Sam Warburton not got himself sent off for that tackle. Where do I stand on the big debate raging around Alain Rolland?

I think that according to the letter of the law, he got it right. It was a dangerous tackle and Warburton should have realised that when he was halfway through it. Had he eased off, guided Clerc down and made sure he didn’t crash to the ground I think he’d have got away with it.

But does any fired up player do that, especially in a World Cup semi-final? Hardly. The adrenalin is flowing and sometimes it flows to a dangerous degree. Warburton is not a filthy player, a violent performer, far from it. But he allowed the emotions and pressures of the occasion to overwhelm him.

There is no doubt Wales paid an awful price for that. I haven’t the slightest doubt Wales would have put away France with 15 men. They nearly did it with 14. As the great Gareth Edwards said on radio yesterday “It was an extraordinary sight to see 14 men outplaying 15”.

But in the end, it wasn’t even Warburton’s dismissal that cost Wales the game. It was their lousy goal kicking. They missed 14 points and you just cannot do that in a World Cup semi-final. That was the point they have to focus on; the Warburton loss was a smokescreen because they still should have won.

I thought Wales took too long after their captain’s dismissal to re-group. They didn’t seem to believe they could still win until they came out for the second half. But by then they’d ‘lost’ 23 minutes.

For me, France were terrible, a pathetic shadow of their once great selves. They should get slaughtered by the All Blacks this Sunday and if they do I hope New Zealand do it by playing great rugby, showing the French that you can still run and attack, play winning rugby with ball in hand.

It was like Australia last night in the other semi-final. Their tactics were bewildering. They had a hell of a fight all night to win the ball, especially at the breakdowns where the All Blacks smashed them. So what did the Aussies do with it when they did win it? Kick it away.

Not profitably but with an endless succession of aimless kicks. Cory Jane in particular had a field day under the high ball; he caught everything going. Yet the Wallabies kept on kicking. How dumb was that?

Their tactics were bizarre. By kicking, they kept knocking themselves out of the play. They needed to keep hold of the ball to have a chance. By kicking it away all the time, they had none. Clearly, the better side won.

I tipped the All Blacks to win this World Cup long ago. It always seemed to me it was their destiny to do it this time. They will, I am certain, complete the job at Eden Park this Sunday. I just can’t see any way the French can upset them.

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